Around three weeks after the latest weird development in the Ryan Braun drug appeal case, it appears that the most recent piece of news will be the final one. Yesterday, sources told the Associated Press that MLB and the Players’ Union had agreed to changes in their drug-testing policy to prevent something similar from happening again, while also confirming that the arbitrator who handled the case wouldn’t release a final, written opinion.
As part of the deal, the section of the joint drug agreement that stated “unless instructed otherwise by CDT (the collection agency), the collector shall deliver the specimens to a FedEx office immediately following the completion of the collection” was removed. (This was the part of the JDA that Braun’s lawyers successfully accused MLB of deviating from.) It was replaced by a slightly different protocol: Samples should be dropped off at an approved FedEx immediately after collection, except under “unusual circumstances” that may include inclement weather, traffic accidents, personal emergencies, and the designated FedEx locations being closed (what happened in the Braun case). The new language also provided a procedure for handling samples that couldn’t immediately be delivered that included cooled, sealed “collectors lock boxes”. Basically, most of the room for error in the collection process was eliminated, and it’s going to be very difficult for players/lawyers to argue against its’ integrity in the future.
Also, both sides agreed that arbitrator Shyam Das, who was recently fired by MLB, wouldn’t release a written opinion on the case, where he would have provided a full explanation of why he ruled in favor of Braun. This would have been incredibly interesting to read, but it’s been assumed for a while now that a full write-up wasn’t coming: In the wake of the media frenzy surrounding Braun’s exoneration, both MLB and the Union asked Das to delay his final opinion, and it became increasingly clear as time passed that there never was going to be one. Considering how many people ended up looking bad as a result of this whole thing, you can’t really blame either side for trying to avoid the subject altogether.
It might seem annoying to have this story come up again, but the changes to the agreement definitely needed to happen. As Braun’s team showed, MLB’s protocol for testing had several significant holes in it that needed to be patched, both to preserve the integrity of the process and prevent every player who tests positive from having a credible defense. Also, it’s good to see this whole thing come to a close: It’s been almost six months since word of Braun’s positive test first got out, and I’m just glad that we can confidently declare it done.